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Innocence of Children in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Essay

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Innocence of Children in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter


In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne does an admirable job of expressing the true nature of his characters. Nowhere in his story is this more obvious than in his portrayal of the children. Children, in their innocence will say or do anything, for unlike adults, they are not constrained by societal expectations. They are oblivious to most manners and politics and therefore, are less reserved than the adults when it comes to questioning things or speaking their mind.

Pearl, the leading child in the novel, is an excellent example of childish innocence combined with almost preternatural perception. Her willpower and imagination make her a blessing and a curse to her mother, who has paid such a dear price for her child. "After testing both smiles and frowns, and proving that neither mode of treatment possessed any calculable influence, Hester was ultimately compelled to stand aside, and permit that the child be swayed to her own impulses" (Hawthorne 82).

Pearl could not be controlled by anyone, nor did she easily establish relationships with others. The other children in town would often tease her and gang up on her, berating Pearl and her mother. Pearl's anger, however, was released in fits of fury as she screamed and flung things at her opponents. These heathenish qualities and unintelligible screams made many of the townsfolk believe her to be a witch (Hawthorne 85-86). In one of the final chapters, Mistress Hibbins, a confirmed witch, proclaims Pearl to be the daughter of the Prince of the Air, another term for Satan (Hawthorne 222).

Pearl is never, in the entire book afraid to speak her mind. Her mother, embarrassed by many of these outbursts, tries in vain to...


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...t of humanity. Maturity and responsibility come with time, but so do the restraints that humans put on their actions, tongues, and hearts. Children, however, are very perceptive, and Hawthorne makes this very clear. Their eyes and ears are always open, yet no one notices a child. Pearl's wisdom and innocence are infuriating and lovable aspects of her personality, and in many ways, she voices what Hester only thinks. Adults in The Scarlet Letter, especially Mr. Dimmsdale, keep their thoughts, feelings, and emotions to themselves, sometimes with disastrous results. In truth, only children can be trusted to tell the complete and utter truth, for they do not understand the tact of white lies, the manners with which we must conduct ourselves, or the politics of society.

Work Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. 1850. New York: The Modern Library, 2000.


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